St. Louis, Midwest-based Asian American artists showcase their 'untold stories'
More than 20 artists from around the Midwest are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a show this week in Kansas City.
“The Asian American Voice: Reclaiming the Narratives” includes work from artists with Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese heritage.
“We really want to appreciate the diversity of the Asian American experience,” says Andrew de las Alas of the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation, the Webster Groves, Missouri-based organization that's sponsoring the show.
“We saw this as an opportunity to really demonstrate and highlight the kinds of stories that are usually untold through an artistic lens,” says de las Alas, a third-generation Filipino-American.
Annie Le, who is Vietnamese American and works as a communications and event consultant for the foundation, says she thinks that the term Asian American is overly broad.
“That term is a monolith, but includes hundreds of cultures in the continent and we were trying to we want to break down those narratives, those ideas of what Asian American identity is,” she says.
Two Kansas City-based artists were selected to be a part of the show.
Raffaela Malazarte was born and raised in the Philippines, but came to the United States in 2015. She works at Children’s Mercy Hospital as a med tech. In her free time, she paints in oil and acrylic. Last year, one of her paintings was selected KC Streetcar stop art installation as part of Art in the Loop.
Looking for a subject to inspire her work, Malazarte started researching Asian American immigration to the United States. She found an old black-and-white photograph of four railroad workers from around the turn of the century. Her painting of the workers is included in the show.
“I read that they back in the day, they needed railroad workers in California so immigrants from Asia and other countries came here to work,” Malazarte says. “These four men were working hard on the railroad to feed their family and contribute to the community.”
As an immigrant herself, Malazarte says she identifies with the workers photographed more than a century ago.
“Their experience mirrors mine right now,” Malazarte says. “I'm not from here, but I'm working hard for the kids here in Kansas City, and I'm contributing to the community and to the health care world as well.”
Olathe-based painter Smitha George is from India, a vast country with 28 states and 23 official languages.
George says Indian culture is known for hospitality, hard work, respect for elders and taking care of your parents until the end of their life. George says color plays a meaningful role in daily life.
“I am bringing works that shows different kinds of clothing from Asia and how cultures speak about an occasion and every color represents a meaning,” George says. “Purple is for royalty. Red is considered a celebration. Gold represents richness. The clothes we wear tell stories of our culture and our heritage.”
The show opens Tuesday with a reception from 6-8 p.m. and continues through Thursday at ArtsKC, 106 Southwest Boulevard, in the Crossroads.
“We’re really able to see the innate beauty,” de las Alas says, “that comes with having a place to celebrate and having an opportunity to really just sit and not reflect out of trauma, but out of love for our culture and out of love for other cultures.”